Forced to flee – and deprived of a decent education

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When conflict forces people to flee their homes, the chances of their children getting a decent education suffer a huge blow, our new report finds.

A temporary classroom in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Photo: Marc Hofer/© UNESCO)

The 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, to be launched on March 1, looks at the obstacles that refugees and internally displaced people face – and sets out a practical series of steps to improve their access to schooling.

The report, The hidden crisis: Armed conflict and education, warns that displacement due to conflict is one of the major barriers to reaching the Education for All goals that over 160 countries signed up to in 2000.


Many displaced people face abject poverty, marginalization and loss of independence. Lack of legal status often means they are unable to access basic services such as education or have to compete for scarce amenities in poor host countries.

Although refugees are legally well protected by the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, enrolment rates among children in refugee camps agency are often low, and fewer girls than boys attend camp schools. More than 50 pupils are often crammed into each classroom. Many teachers have been recruited from the camps and lack training. Few camps offer secondary schooling.

Only about one refugee in three lives in a camp, however: most live in urban settings, where little is known of their education status and their treatment varies considerably between countries.

Education figures for internally displaced people are even more limited but suggest that displacement severely disrupts education, with the poor, girls and indigenous peoples worst affected. There is no legally binding equivalent of the 1951 convention upholding the rights of internally displaced people.

The report stresses that donors, governments and international organizations should match the huge determination and commitment shown by displaced families to provide education for their children. The report makes detailed recommendations about assessing needs, legal protection, donor support and the roles of UN agencies.


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